Category Archives: Substitutes

Summer Substitute Series: Preparing Your Classroom

We’re here for the next installment of our substitute series – Preparing Your Classroom

When you walk into your classroom – or school for that matter, you know where everything is. Finding the break room, restrooms, or paperclips is not a challenge for you. For a substitute knowing where they can find things is important to help keep their day running smoothly. With that in mind, we know that it is impossible to would take forever to write everything down. Here are some of the essentials.

1. Map of the School
When a substitute is new to your building, they can spend 15 of their 20 minute break searching for a restroom. Leave a map of your school with some highlighted areas. The important places to highlight are

  • Specials – either highlight the specific class for the day, or label “music”, “art”, the map can be used any day of the week
  • Mail – if you don’t want your substitute to check your mail, you might want to have a friend/teammate check the mail for you in case there is important information that needs to go home that day
  • Restrooms – if you have multiple restrooms in the building, highlight those that are most convenient for your substitute
  • Break Room – many substitutes like to eat in your classroom, but sometimes they may need a caffeine fix or need to speak with another teacher
  • End of the Day Exit – mark which door your students exit through at the end of the day – this will help keep the students in check as they leave the classroom

2. Emergency Information 
It is usually required to have the emergency exits posted somewhere in your classroom. Make sure you leave specific instructions for each type of emergency. You also want to note if a special bag or class list needs to be taken with you during an emergency.
Usually the office will give a substitute a heads up about a drill, but in the case of a real emergency, substitutes need to be prepared for anything.

3. Around Your Room
There are lots of different ways to approach assisting your substitute in your room. Many teachers simply rely on a student or two to share information with a teacher. However, if this is your strategy, what happens when those students are absent?

If you have the time, the most efficient way to make sure your substitute can find things around the classroom is to take pictures. For instance, for math stations, your students may work around the room in designated in areas. Snap a shot of each area and label which students should be in which area.

It also helps if your classroom is labeled. In the beginning, you will spend a lot of time (that probably won’t seem worth it) trying to organize and label the things around your room. But, once everything is in the proper place and labeled, not only will your substitute (or students) be able to find things in your absence, but you will also stay more organized.

4. Classroom Rules/Discipline Plan
Each teacher has their own rules. Some let kids sharpen pencils, some don’t let their students get a tissue without permission. Spending so much time in different rooms, substitutes can easily give your students more leniency or be scoffed at for being too harsh. Or if substitutes don’t know your rules, they may make up their own rules. It is best to leave a list of what your students may and may not do, as well as the steps you take to discipline them.

These are just a few of the essential items you need to leave for your substitute. We can write about this topic for a looooong time, but this post is long enough already. We hope this gets you thinking about what is important to leave for your substitute. Later on in the series, we will talk about preparing a resource with all this information and more. You’ll find that you can spend a little time now to create a great resource that can be left for any substitute.

How in depth are your notes for a substitute? Do you only leave lesson plans or do you leave more extensive directions for your subs?


Summer Substitute Series: Preparing Your Students

Preparing for a Substitute

Think back over the last school year. How many times were you absent? Teacher absences are usually unavoidable. Sometimes you need to attend a training session, you might be planning with your grade level, maybe little Tommy sneezed all over you and now you have a cold… the list goes on and on. Any way you slice it, you still need a substitute.

Substitute. To teachers this word means lots of extra planning, panic about your class’ behavior, and all those other wonderful feelings you get when you’re worried about your students and their learning. On the other, students usually view substitutes as an opportunity to get away with whatever they want. Yes, even your kindergarten babies know how to manipulate substitutes these days.

If you have ever been a substitute, you know that it is one of the toughest jobs you will ever have. Reasons for becoming a substitute vary, but if you’re lucky often times your subs will being looking for a full time position or have taught before. This means a lot of subs have a basic knowledge of teaching practices and can handle the average class. (We’ll talk more about preparing for the substitute over the next few weeks.)

However, today, we are here to talk about preparing your students. Do we mean that your students have some sort of responsibility even though you are not there? Absolutely. Students need to be taught how to behave and conduct the classroom while you are away. If you do not prepare your students, you will probably have a hard time finding a substitute who is willing to frequent your classroom.

Below are a few things you can do to prepare your students.

1. Explain to your students what a substitute does. Believe it or not, many students view substitutes as babysitters. Given this thought, students do not treat subs with the respect of a regular teacher. They manipulate, lie, and are disrespectful. It is your job to explain to the students that a substitute is a teaching professional. Substitutes are teachers (depending on your district they may even need to be certified) that deserve the same respect as any other teacher in the building. Students need to know that subs have been in classrooms before and know the ropes.

2. Set expectations for your students. Your expectations during your absence should be the same, if not higher for your students. You may need to give your students some consequences (both positive and negative) for an incentive to hold up their end of the bargain. Students need to be told that just because you are gone does not mean that school will just be fun and games that day. They will still be learning and participating in school like any other day.

3. Allow students to express their feelings. Unless it is the beginning of the year in Kindergarten, chances are your students have had experiences with substitutes before – some good, some bad. Take time for your students to share what they have liked/disliked about subs they had in the past. This will give you a better idea of where your students stand while their regular teacher is out of the classroom.

Every class, every student is different. We don’t guarantee that talking to your students before you are absent is the key to everything, but it definitely could be beneficial. We encourage you to have this talk with your students at the beginning of the year and briefly remind them of the talk when you know you will be out for the day. At the very least, when you have those last minute emergencies, your students will have an idea of what you expect from them.

Have you prepared your students for substitutes in the past? We would love to hear what things you talk about with your students and if it has been helpful or not. See you in the comments!

Happy Tuesday!

This is going to be short and sweet.

We’ve uploaded a quick freebie today that anyone can use! Often times substitutes don’t know what kind of notes to leave or simply forget. Check out the latest item in our TPT store – this simple two page (print two-sided) guides substitutes to leave important details about how the day went.

What has your experience with subs been like in the past? Do you have a favorite new substitute this year?